An essential piece of assistive technology for those with vision disabilities is a screen reader that can cost in upwards of $900 or more. This tool is necessary because without it, navigation and understanding of the Internet is almost impossible. However, there are still services that deliver quality without the $900 price tag.
On the Windows operating system, NVDA is a free screen reader that is ideal for those who travel as they can carry the program via USB device. Serotek System Access is also another Windows reader. The tool is extremely versatile as it does not need to be used in a browser. This allows for users to type Word documents and in turn have the screen reader read it back. Although this service requires a fee, the amount in comparison to other screen readers is much more affordable. Similarly, Linux and Apple OS X have free screen reader extensions that offer the same benefits as those for Windows.
For users that only require Web readers, there are equivalents of the free screen reading software for Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome. Google has created plugins for those who are both visually impaired and fully blind. Chrome Vox is a screen reader that can be installed on the Chrome browser and it will allow for information to be read in the page without disruption of the order. ChromeVis is the alternative, used for those with visual impairments. The tool allows for magnified text and color swaps, for those who are colorblind. Spoken Web is a Web portal for people using Internet Explorer. The portal provides simple, easy to use interface and a wide variety of resources, providing a single website for news articles, weather, and other services.
The ability to use a screen reader for free can open up so many doors for individuals unable to spend $900 on one. Through the creation of affordable assistive technology for those with disabilities, we are creating a world of equal rights. These tools should not be priced as a luxury, but as an item that these individuals need to live. With more organizations adopting this viewpoint, the future of assistive technology looks bright.
For more information on the free screen readers, go to: Usability Geek